We Need to Talk About Loneliness During Mental Health Awareness Week | Health

We Need to Talk About Loneliness During Mental Health Awareness Week | Health
We Need to Talk About Loneliness During Mental Health Awareness Week 

Mental Health Awareness Week: We need to talk about loneliness

The Beatles encouraged us to “look at all the lonely people” in 1966.  More than half a century later, we should still heed his call.  Loneliness is common in Scotland as one in four adults say they have felt lonely at some or all of the time in the past month.  Yet, despite its prevalence, we are unable to talk about it.

Loneliness is not about the number of friends we have, the amount of time we spend alone, or something that happens when we reach a certain age.  It is the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the meaningful social connections we want and the ones we have.  When experienced over a long period of time, loneliness can damage our mental health leading to anxiety and depression.

Despite many of us being affected (78% of adults in Scotland have experienced loneliness in the past year), more than half (51%) of us hide our feelings of loneliness from others.  Many of us feel embarrassed or unable to accept our feelings of loneliness.

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Perhaps this reluctance to talk comes from a fear of being judged or from the suspicion that our loneliness is self-inflicted or caused by a failing personality.  We look around and it seems like everyone is living their best life and this can make us feel inadequate and lonely.

So, this Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re exploring loneliness, the effects it has on our mental health and what we can do to combat it.  We want to start a conversation about loneliness and invite people to share their experiences with the tag #IveBeenthere.

By doing so, we hope to help reduce the stigma and send a powerful message to those who are struggling that loneliness is not something we need to manage alone.  In fact, we all have a role to play in addressing loneliness – as individuals, communities and governments.

If you’re feeling lonely, it can help to keep busy with the things you enjoy.  Try using social media in a positive way by finding digital communities that share similar interests to you, and try to find people who “get” you.

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To support others who are feeling lonely, you can help by creating groups that make you feel as welcoming as possible and available to listen and show understanding.  Don’t judge or stigmatize someone who has said that they feel lonely, it’s a really hard thing to admit and that person has taken a big step by being open about their feelings – don’t dismiss them out of hand.

Loneliness is serious.  It is an important public health issue, a sign of poor mental health, and we need more than just goodwill between people and communities to address it.  We need investment for population-level support.

Our local and national governments must take action to help reduce social isolation in our communities with investments in quality community spaces, organizations and groups so that people have more opportunities to connect.  Our research for Mental Health Awareness Week asked people what could be done to overcome loneliness and four in 10 (46%) said there were new or improved community-based clubs and activities in a local area where people  Can meet in person, will help.

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But first, we should talk about it.  We encourage everyone to join Mental Health Awareness Week and share their stories of loneliness that have been kept hidden.

Eleanor Rigby and Father Mackenzie will thank you for this.

For more information and advice about loneliness and mental health, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Source: The National, Direct News 99 

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